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In my experience, the importance of a small business website is often severely underestimated by many small business owners. I believe that your website is like the engine room of your marketing ecosystem. It should play an active role in your marketing and plug into your business at a strategic level.

However, when it comes to creating a best-practice website, a lot of non-webby people simply don’t know what they don’t know.

So, I’m chatting with the ever-delightful Simon Bank from WebStudio in this episode. Simon is one of the marketing experts in the How To Do Marketing Academy. He has been in the web industry for over 17 years and he shares the same opinion as me – websites are way more than a nice design and a bit of code.

Simon is going shed a light on some of the webby stuff that you may not know that you don’t know. So as always, grab a pen and paper and get ready for some useful info about how to create a best-practice, small business website.

You can find Simon at WebStudio

Website: https://www.webstudio.com.au/ or phone: 02 55 145 145


Episode Transcript:

Jane:

Hello Simon. And welcome to the how to do marketing show.

Simon:

Hey Jane, thank you for having me on.

Jane:

Such a pleasure. Now we’re going to deep dive into the topic of small business websites today, which I’m really looking forward to. But before we do that, can you please just give a little bit of an explanation of your business Web Studio, what it’s all about and how you help small businesses to build their websites?

Simon:

Yeah, definitely. Well, I founded Web Studio back in 2004 while I was studying business at QUT in Brisbane. So I’ve always loved design as well as the numbers side of business. So for Web Studio is a perfect synergy of the two. I love helping businesses grow and flourish using the web as a central part of their marketing strategy. But I realized that a great website is way more than a beautiful design. We’ve got to be thinking about their audience, helping people to build connection with their audience. And this happens through good planning and a design process that’s in harmony with the rest of their branding and their big picture, that big story. And I love helping clients build engagement through their website.

Jane:

Fantastic. And you’ve been doing this for a very, very long time. This is what you’ve been doing your whole career. Like since you studied business, did you go straight in?

Simon

Pretty much. So I threw in my degree, I did web design to pay my way through the latter couple of years of university, but then I got a graduate job with a Big Four accounting firm. And I thought this is an opportunity. Like I said, I just went for it because I’d studied business. And I thought I’m going to have a crack at that as a graduate from a business degree. And low and behold, I got a gig and I thought, well, that’s an offer not to be sniffed at. So I thought I’ll give it a crack. See how I like it because I’ve always loved the numbers side of business. I thought I’d give that a go, but I kept Web Studio sitting along the side and always had a few little projects on the burner on the side. And that sort of satisfied my creative side a bit. But then a couple of years later, 2007 is when I was like, I’m all in. I can’t do both. I want to choose one and be all in on web design. And I felt like that was where my passion and my calling was. So yeah, for me, like the last 14 plus years has been full-time to building websites for small businesses.

Jane:

Yeah. So plenty of experience. And I can imagine, like I’m taking my mind back to 2007. I started the Dragonfly Marketing business back in 2005 and like even websites then to what websites are now like wow.

Simon:

They are different. I’ve actually got a client. One of my first official Web Studio clients from 2004 is a kitchen company up on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a one man band. He lives up in the little town of Maleny near Montville up in the Hinterland. He’s been really happy with his website for years and years. And I’ve said to him, ‘John, I’d love to build you a new website. You’ve been a client for years. I’d give it to you. You know, I just want to do it for you.’ And he’s like, no, it’s perfect. It’s fine, I love what I’ve got. I’m really happy with it, but now he’s agreed. And I’m in the process of redesigning that. So it’s great to have buyers that have been with us right from day one and we’ve been able to help them along the way, but now we’re able to change them to I’m really looking forward to this transformation from the 2004 to the 2021. Like it’s just going to be a complete change overhaul.

Jane:

Yay. Oh my goodness. Like, not only just the look cause that’s where my mind goes first and foremost, like what was kind of trendy and looking contemporary and sleek back in 2005, probably wouldn’t transpire to the same description of that, but it’s like the functionality like these days. Like building a website, I guess, of sorts in Kajabi for the How to do Marketing Academy. SoI am building it, but I’m not building it. Like there’s not much coding to do at all and serious tools that you can use. I can just put the whole thing together. They have made it. And for them to have made it so easy for me to do that, I’m not someone who tolerates like things that, that have a lot of detail or tricky bits or.

Simon:

They need to be intuitive and make sense of how you can get your ideas out

Jane:

Drag and drop is what it needs to be, Simon.

Simon:

And it needs to work well for your business.

Jane:

Yeah. Yeah. But my other website obviously is WordPress, which you specialize in and even WordPress, like from what it was 10 years ago to what it is now it’s and actually I can say that like when you use the editing tools, like Elementor and stuff in WordPress, it’s very similar to the way that Kajabi has been designed, building blocks style. Click and drag.

 

Simon:

Yeah. It really helps you to get your idea onto the page quickly and easily.

Jane:

Yeah, that’s right. And it probably doesn’t come together as beautifully and seamlessly as when it’s been developed from scratch from a web developer. But it’s getting pretty close for these sorts of platforms from the content management side of things.

Simon:

And it’s interesting, you mentioned that because we actually do work with quite a number of clients who’ve had a crack at making their own website. And you know, as a type of brief, or as a starting point for a website to have a client, who’s had a crack at studying whether they actually use that website or not, sometimes they would just give us a login to one they’d been tinkering around with themselves, but it’s helped them get their ideas out of their head. And it’s actually bring, they come to us well prepared. I’ve already hit a few challenges. I’ve got a few questions, but they’re asking the right questions and they come a bit more aware or appreciating a bit more of what we’re going to be doing and taking the journey. We’ll take them on. So yeah, like we don’t feel competitively threatened by that DIY system because people are always looking for that help with expressing themselves and what’s going to actually be effective for them.

And that advice is really, that’s probably a key value offering is the advice that we can give and guiding people through that journey and helping them know what to do and not to do. And it’s a tool, you’re a marketer, you get all the important do’s and don’ts, but so many people who are building a website that never had anything to do with it before. It’s all very overwhelming and we’re really just the guides that will demystify all of that and make that and help clients focus on what’s important and less on what’s not.

Jane:

And I would never attempt to build a WordPress website from scratch at all. Even though they’re mildly intuitive and from the content management side of things that’s probably where I find it  the most intuitive is when you want to add a blog, when you want to change some of the content, and they’ve been developed specifically for that, which is why we’ve always recommended clients use WordPress, because I find that they’re much more intuitive than a lot of the other website platforms to be able to use that intuitive kind of drag and drop style content management, editing function.

Simon:

Yeah. So I mean it, without having to reinvent the wheel as web developers, we can create, we can express, what it is that you want to get out onto the website, but in a way that you’ll be able to maintain it yourself in the future, like you said, like adding blog posts, editing a bit of content. Sure. You’re not going to necessarily redesign the whole look and feel, but the day-to-day looking after the website, it’s super easy for you to do.

Jane:

Yeah. One of the questions that I had around this, because something that I see a lot, and funny that you kind of mentioned that people start sometimes start by building their own website or they might’ve actually gone out and got somebody else to build it. As you say, you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re first starting out. You kind of just go and look at a few other people’s websites and go, I can see they’ve got a homepage and about us page and a contact us page, you know, and they list their services. So that’s where I’ll start. But there’s so many small business websites that are simply there as a placeholder, I’m going to call them a place holder. Someone’s gone, we need a website. We’ve got to be found on the internet.

If someone types in our name, we just need to make sure that we’ve got something there that tells people who we are and what we do, but it’s this really dormant, kind of really ineffective. The only thing that’s really effective is if someone’s searching hard for you, they’ll find a website presence. I call them passive websites. And I think the websites that really work for a business, if you have been strategic with your marketing thought process, other websites that are active, they energetically align with your business. They do more than just sit there, waiting for someone to discover it. They actually plug in at an operational level, maybe at a customer service level at a thought leadership, you know, helping you share thought leadership level there,

Simon:

There’s things there that prompt you and stimulate thought. Yeah.

Jane:

What have you learned? What have you learned over the years about the difference and what makes the difference between a really static kind of dormant website versus a really, really effective one? What are the foundations of a really effective website?

Simon:

I think the things that I’ll say to you about this is going to be like, aha, like that’s really obvious, but like for me the first place I would start would be personality. Actually like the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that websites need personality, simply telling people what you do and where to find you was not enough, like you were saying about that passive just like here’s a screenshot of our brochure. It’s not enough because people buy from people. So using your website to provide a warm, welcome to your customers is a really great way to engage them build trust and rapport. So for example, using photos or if possible, a video, it gives people a really warm welcome that greeting. They feel like they’ve met you in person in a way they’ve already started building that bit of connection with you.

You’re replicating the experience they have when they walk into your office or jump on a zoom call with you. So you’re creating that human element, but it’s also then a big thing is also creating continuity or consistency with all your other touch points as well. So the design has got to be on brand. It’s got to be consistent rather than just a logo pasted in the top corner of a site that looks nice. It’s got to sort of all flow together really well. So consistency and continuity is massive. And then real clarity of what’s next. Like, what are you offering me? What’s here and what do I do now? And giving people choice of ways they can engage really easily throughout the website.

Jane:

Yeah. I think they are three winners and I love the personality and when you say that you think of course it should have personality, but Simon, so many don’t and that’s not just small business, that’s big business. Do you know what I mean? I think whether it’s kind of like the corporate brochure used to be, everyone’s trying to be on their best behavior and it’s super polished. We’re hiding behind a lovely brand. It’s all manicured. It’s all perfect. It’s like really staged. It’s a bit fake where I think we’ve got our filters on there as informed consumers, as buyers, we’re looking for authenticity and we’re looking for that real use. So kind of weigh the crap and show me you. What do you do? What do you do differently? And I think that’s where the personality and having that personal touch and having a bit of relate-ability in there, show that you’re real. And that you’re a genuine person that people can relate with. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. And it doesn’t just have to be one person. It can be your team.

Simon:

Yeah. And just really getting the culture of your company or your business onto the website. So really expressing I’m having a bit of fun, like make it interesting, make it a bit quirky. Don’t be afraid to have a little wiggle that squiggles in the corner or something whatever’s going to bring it to life, whatever expresses your businesses as your point of difference. So add a bit of personality. I think it really helps build connection. Yeah.

Jane:

Yeah. I agree. And I love your point too, about that consistency, that brand consistency, and making sure that it ties in with the signage on your business with your LinkedIn page, with your business card or whatever, and the clarity. And I think the clarity around what to do next, this is where small businesses can really plug the website in operationally. So, what functions are you doing as a business that you might actually be able to shift onto the website? You know, even if it’s just something really basic, like frequently asked questions, are there questions that people ring you up with all the time that you could put on your website so that people could start to have those answered before they get on the phone to yourself?

Simon:

So more informed and they know more about what you’ve got to offer.

Jane:

Yeah. Or is there some sort of online booking functionality, is there you know a chat person they can talk to to kind of have that initial conversation. There’s ways that we can kind of think about, well, how do people do business with us and what could we actually add to the website to actually get them to start doing business with us on the line or picking up the phone. That’s that kind of clarity too, of going well, how can I start working with these people? How can I start finding out more? How can I engage at a deeper level than just reading the information that’s on the screen.

Jane:

You would have seen some mistakes along the way.

Simon:

Yeah. We’ve made a few mistakes as well, Jane.

Jane:

Well, you would have had to fix a lot of mistakes yet. We’ve all made mistakes. What if someone’s listening today and wants to avoid some of the mistakes that you’ve learned from along the way what would they be?

Simon:

Absolutely. So I think that firstly I see a lot of websites with either too much or too little information. Either information overwhelm or really light on detail. So I think that’s where planning the website and really having a good plan. And we’ll talk about a brief later. But I think planning is critical to articulate in the key messages that you need to deliver to your audience. And secondly, a big mistake that I see is not differentiating yourself from your competitors just same same, like really not expressing your points of difference and making that clear on the website. But I think, and the website can help with this, but it also is beyond the website, is that follow through or the lack of follow through. And you touched on it before, like in terms of automating in that customer service side there’s so many businesses who invest time and money engaging their audience through their marketing, but they don’t back it up with systems and processes to make the most of opportunities that arise.

Simon:

So they get the phones ringing, the emails are running, they’re writing on scraps of paper and that because they lack the systems to really make the most of those opportunities that rise. Yeah, I see this way too often. And at the very least keeping a journal or a notebook of people that have contacted you, just so you can read back through it and just follow up with people I think is critical. But I say that as an absolute minimum, but ideally some sort of a database or system, or as we call a CRM where you can keep a track of the people that have come through your website or that have called you or emailed you somewhere that you can create a central place for keeping track, but more than keeping track to be able to then follow up on or later on when someone comes back to you, they don’t have to necessarily explain themselves again.

Or if another member of your team picks up that contact and is carrying on, there’s a bit of continuity in that user or that customer journey. So I think that there are a number of CRM tools out there as simple as an app on your phone, right through to web based tools that can plug into your website so that once somebody has taken action, we can create a journey for them, whether it be an email sequence, welcome to Dragonfly Marketing, or whether it’s an SMS that gets sent out to the customer to say – ‘Hey, thank you for getting in touch on our website. We’ll be giving you a call very soon.’ But just little automations that can be done just to really make the most of that opportunity. So that’s a big glaring opportunity or a mistake that I see. People creating, attracting people to the website, and then falling flat on the follow through. Yeah.

Jane:

I love that. Yeah. Or putting too much or too little information on their website. I probably see it in some of the older style websites that just haven’t been updated within the last five years or so. And just the pages and pages and pages of static information. It’s one thing to have pages of blogs and podcasts and that kind of information. Cause that’s dynamic content. But just the pages and pages of static information and you and I look at the Google analytics on sites every day, you see the pages that people are interacting with. If I take mine, for example, the static pages that people interact with on my website are really my home and about us. And I’ve got one particular product that I’m pushing a lot at the moment, The Academy, they’re probably the three main pages of the static content. And then it’s all the blog content and the podcast, the other pages never get a look in.

Simon:

And it’s amazing. I can say exactly the same from our side as well. People will see your homepage. So you’ve got to really get your message across really clearly there. They want to know who you are. So they’d love to find out a little bit more about you. Show me and tell me what you do. But another page that we do get a bit of engagement on as well is our proof of work or that portfolio of work where people like to see what you’ve done. So that proof of your capability or track record is pretty important. That’s a takeaway from our own website.

Jane:

Yeah that’s a really good point as well. Now, as we dive into some of this, what we call user experience and how people are interacting with our site. A term that some listeners may or may not have heard is, UX, which is exactly that, it just means user experience. It’s just a fancy website term. And then there’s UI, which is the kind of user interface. Can you explain these terms in a little bit more detail and also why they’re important? So if someone’s talking about UI or someone’s talking to their web developer about UI and UX, make sure you understand them.

Simon:

Well, simply put, the user interface is all the visual elements on the website. So that’s all the buttons, the headings, the text, the photos, the video. It’s the things that you touch and feel on the website. So everything that you see on the website. The user experience is a level above that. It’s the experience that you have when you’re on the website. So how does it make me feel about your business and how does it make me want to interact or engage with your business and what does it inspire me to do next? So when we’re designing a website, we are thinking about the user experience. We’re thinking about what your goals are for your website, where we want to guide people to. So what action we want them to take, and clearly articulate your message and offering using logical formatting. So there’s a journey and a flow through from one section to the next and just take your visitors on an enjoyable journey. And that’s really what that user experience is about, using the interface or the UI to get them there. Yeah.

Jane:

Yeah. Cause when we refer to active, exciting dynamic websites, that’s the kind of stuff that you need to be focusing on is how is that user experiencing the interface within your websites? So it’s really key. Now we touched on before, too little or too much information. What’s the kind of trend now. Like how do we make sure we’ve got the perfect amount of information?

Simon:

Well, there are conflicting goals, right? So there’s conflicting objectives, there’s the SEO, which is, is there enough content to be attractive to Google? To bring the Google search engine and give you a higher ranking. So there’s that 500 to 700 words on your key pages is a minimum for effective SEO on the website. But it’s about structuring that content. So it’s not just slabs and the walls of content. So there’s not a one size fits all in the sense of you must hit that absolute number of words. It’s more about like within a particular range, but being careful, again, not to just bombard with content, write that content into bite-size chunks, through the website. So effective use of headings and images and graphics to split it up.

So not just a big slab of content, because what people want is about an A4 piece of paper and that’s a fair ball of content. So we don’t want to hit that all in one screen. So certainly like that was a challenge five to 10 years ago when a big goal was to have that minimize the amount of scrolling on a website, keep it all above the fold, so to speak, but that term as well, and truly gone now. So we can put that in the past the weekend. We want to actually use scrolling as a way to unfold and unpack the story and take people on a journey, say 500 to 700 words, but it sounds like a lot. It doesn’t have to overwhelm on the page. So it requires a bit of thought and planning how we lay that out, but it’s certainly achievable.

But that’s why we break it down because less is more so we want to make it into logical, like structuring heading. So maybe having an introduction paragraph at the top with some links that take people either to another heading or a section on the page or to another page on the website to really expand on that bit of content as well. So you might have four sentences on your business, a short paragraph on each service on your homepage with a read more that then goes to another page. That’s got that 500 to 700 words that expands on that content is important as well. But the main thing with in all of that, within the content, we really want to make sure that the website content can phase who you are and what you do, how you can help your customers and what sets you apart. So it’s not just blabbing on about, we are this, this, this, this, and this, but it’s who are you? What do you do? How you can help? So really speaking to your customer’s pain points and actually resonating with their needs and their challenges and their struggles and how you can help them and then set yourself apart and then invite or provide an opportunity for people to engage with you.

Jane:

Yeah, yeah. Love it. That makes complete sense. And that’s a really good rundown. And if you think of the landing page templates that you can buy now, they kind of follow that formula a bit there that scroll. It is absolutely a scroll, everything’s on the right page. And a kind of headline, intro paragraph that kind of talks about how you’re going to take someone from A to B. You might have an image and then more information than a video, then a few options to take people elsewhere.

Simon:

You don’t want people to get bored, right? You just want to make it interesting and engaging. And if it’s just keep scrolling it’s same, same, same. You need to break it up using design elements to create variety and make it interesting as people are scrolling through.

Jane:

Yeah. Makes complete sense. Now when we’re working with a client within the How do Marketing Academy, or one of our clients with Dragonfly Marketing, if they need to do a website refresh, or if they need to build a website for the first time, we’ll work with them and you’ll work with them as well, to build a website brief. From the web development point of view, what is it on this brief? What’s the information that needs to be included on this brief, so that you’ve got all that you need, all of the information that you need to then go and build a really effective website for that business? What’s the key info you’re looking for?

Simon:

I can tell you that the website brief, Jane Hillsdon has done the best in the business. And so your students and your clients are really well served in that area when they come over to work with us. Because it is really about the proper planning, getting that planning right. And we want to design a website, that’s going to be a captivating journey for your businesses customers. So really a great website brief provides an overview of your marketing strategy. So that’s for each, when I’m speaking to your, I’m speaking to the listeners and I’m speaking to your students, we want to have an overview of your marketing strategy so that we can tailor the design and user experience of your website. So it’s in harmony with your business.

It’s got to have that unique element to it. So really, for us, and a simple starting point is that list of pages. What are the key pages on the website? We refer to this as a site map and it gives us a quick overview of the scope of the website, like how many pages there are and how we’re sort of going to set things out in the venue at the top and what sort of buttons we’re going to put on the home page. But in that document, in the brief, we want to know who you are. We would want to know what you do and how you serve your customers. Do you have a shop front? Do you have an online store? Do you deliver? Tell us about how you serve your customers. And website briefs should tell us about your audience, who your customers are, separate them into a few main demographic groups so that we can structure the website to speak directly to them.

And we’d love to hear your vision, your goals, and the desired outcomes for the website. So do you want people to buy from you or make an appointment with you or visit your store or come to your music festival or what is it that you are wanting them to do? So we want that in the brief as well, so we can design the journey to actually achieve that. And then it’s great to know a little about your current website as well, if you’ve got one. So what’s working, what you love about it, what you don’t love about it, any specific ideas or examples that you can refer us to for the new website, because it is yours and we want it to be a reflection of your personality. As much as we are website professionals, we can give you great advice on a design that’s going to be amazing. We want it to be a reflection of you as well. So we’d love to have your input and your ideas and the brief. And we want to know a little bit about your culture and the tone of voice and the style, the flavor you want for the website. So those are the main elements.

Jane:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I think that if there’s a kind of a logical process to go through and have that information, so to have that information, you have to have really thought through your marketing at a strategic point. Like the things that you’ve touched on there are brand, who are we, what do we stand for? What you like, even from the look and feel point of view. Who is it that we serve? What is it that we do? All of that sort of stuff kind of got to have that articulated in your head to be able to hand over that.

Simon:

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s where going through this marketing planning process as you’re doing within the Academy, as well as just such a great foundation for your marketing, because it’s going to be when we’re planning your website or any other form of marketing that you’re doing, it creates that platform for consistency and continuity that we spoke about earlier. So the brief for your website will look similar to the brief for your other forms of marketing, because you’re starting from that clear starting point you have to define your customers, you’re working out what you’re offering, how you’re offering it, and generally setting the tone for all of your marketing. And that’s super helpful when they’re building a website. We can do our best work when we’re working with clients who are really clear about their goals and engaged in the process. So putting their unique ideas and elements into the process.

Jane:

Love it. Love it. Now let’s talk about my favorite measurement tool ever in the whole wide world, Google analytics. It’s quite a dorky admission, but I think where I get really dismayed is that not enough small businesses know about Google analytics, it’s a powerful measurement tool, but it’s just such a powerful tool in general, to let you know about how people are interacting with your business online, because it’s a goal of mine.

Jane:

Like I see the website as the hub of your marketing online and offline. A lot of our offline generally refers people to our website as the standing kind of points. So we can even tell the success of a radio campaign or a print campaign by looking at the activity on the website, if we’ve integrated the two. So it’s a necessity. And something that we obviously integrate within The Academy that people are checking their Google analytics, and we tell them what to check each month, but can you just talk about how Google analytics works and what are some of the things that you believe are really important for small businesses to know about from Google analytics?

Simon:

Absolutely. Yeah. Google analytics is such a great tool, as you’ve touched on that. It gives you some really valuable insights into how your marketing strategy is working and where there are opportunities to develop that and improve it and refine. And so for us, in summary, Google analytics is great for telling us how people are finding you. So where did people come from to get to the website? Did they come directly to your website by typing in howtodomarketing.com or did they come by a Google search? Did they come from Facebook or LinkedIn? So it gives us a bit of insight as to which sources are working really well for your business. Google analytics also tells us which pages are being viewed the most.

So we know which one we’re like, we know the two that are working really well. Or if they’re not the pages that we want people to be going to, we can know, okay, well, we need to improve or refine the pathways and the journeys through the website. So are they the pages that we want people to be looking at, or would we prefer, prefer them to spend more time in another part of the website? And so it helps reflect on what is working well, and what’s not working well on the website. And to that point, where are people leaving the website? What are the exit points? So if people are getting to your website going through the home page and then going to the about page and not going any further, there’s a big problem on the about page because they really don’t like you straight up.

So it’s super helpful to have that little bit of information on where people are leaving the website. And then also the user’s behavior. So how long are they spending on each page? Are they spending five minutes on your, about page and 10 seconds on your services page? We really want to if they’re spending not very long on a page that the content is overwhelming, or it’s not speaking clearly to your customers, so it’s helpful to see in Google analytics will tell you how long exactly people are spending on each page. So it’s helpful from that point of view. And then it tells us also the demographics of people that are coming to the website, so the age, the location, the gender and it can help us to align that with what our initial goals were back in the planning of the website.

Are they our clients? Are they our people that are coming to the website? And if it isn’t those people, then we need to be adjusting something to align it up to the people that we do want to be coming to the website. So it really gives us an insight into the effectiveness of those channels through which we’re bringing traffic to the website, how effective are they bringing the right people to the website? And then I think overall it’s just about providing that that general overview of, yeah, like, as we’ve touched on where people are coming from, their behavior, their journey through the website, and then allows you to take that information. There’s not information just to look at and go, Hmm. That’s interesting. But to actually take action on that and be going back to your strategy and refining and improving and using it as a tool for constant improvement. Yeah.

Jane:

Yeah. And that’s a great description of it. And even just like little things, like you can actually see how many people are accessing your website via mobile or tablet, or by desktop and most websites, I would imagine. And now, as a default, you would hope optimized for mobile, but again, it’s one thing to be optimized for mobile, but even just to scroll through your website and really understand that mobile experience, like if you can see that 80% or 70% of accessing it by mobile, what does that experience look like? Because sometimes when we’re testing websites and when we’re in the development mode, we’re on our Mac or we’re on our PC or whatever, and it’s big. And it’s, you know, everything’s clear in the writing, you know, spreads across the screen, but when you’ve got all of that writing and it’s on mobile, it makes for such a long text.

Simon:

Absolutely. Yeah. And it’s really worth considering and looking at how many people are coming and using mobile. And one thing that we do is when we’re building a website is actually give the website a run on several different mobiles before we actually launched the website so that we can see whether that button’s accidentally being overlapped by that heading, or whether that block of text is hiding behind that picture. And so on unexpected things, you actually have to test it. So yeah if you’re seeing, there’s a lot of traffic coming from mobile, but the people who are on mobile aren’t engaging with you, you know that there’s a problem with your mobile website.

Jane:

Yeah. A hundred percent. I love that. Now, another concept to explain, if you will, website hosting. So this is something I imagine that everyone pays for monthly or annually at some point to somebody. What is a web developer doing when they host our website and are there various levels? Like what is website hosting?

Simon:

A hundred percent. So I love a good analogy. And for me, the analogy that I’ve referred back to over the years is the concept of a house on a block of land. So I think that really expresses the different components of a website really well. So think of your website as the house, it’s where your business lives online and like a house your website’s built on a virtual block of land which is your web hosting. So that’s your little block of land where your web, where your house is built on. Every house needs to be built on a block of land as every website needs web hosting and your land or your web hosting needs to be connected to water and power in order to keep it operating. So as a web hosting provider as well, we make sure that all the services are constantly working and providing the operation and the smooth running of the website as your counsel, for example, makes sure the water keeps coming through the pipes and the power keeps coming through the power lines.

The web hosting is the place where your website lives online. But to take that analogy a little bit further you know, domain names. Your web address, it’s like your letterbox, the street name and the street number. How do people find you online? What’s your address online? And so that’s the letter box in front of your house, on your block of land. But like everything in like every house, as we know, they need maintenance and they need a touch up from time to time. So a regular clean, a few repairs here and there, and a fresh coat of paint from time to time as well, sometimes extensions or another level. So the house analogy for me really wraps that together. And I think really covers over all the different elements really well.

Jane:

Yeah. I love that. That’s made it really crystal clear for me too, cause like you kind of get it. But I know like people go, well, who’s got the domain name and what’s the domain and what’s the difference, but I’ve got to pay fees for the domain name over here and the hostings over here. Or some people don’t even know where their website’s hosted, you know, like, because sometimes the hosting company will be separate to the website development though.

Simon:

So often these things have been set up and forgotten about like the domain name. For example, someone will register the domain name as part of registering the business name and forget where it’s registered and it’s on their old email address. And now they’ve changed to using their business email address. And then one day the domain name expires on them and now their business has got a lot of activity in that, depending on that email address and bang all of a sudden their website’s offline or their emails offline because their domain name expired. So what we do is we help people when we’re building a website, we check in with them, where’s your domain name? Where’s your web hosting and really doing a bit of an audit and tidy up of where everything is located. Most of the domain names for our clients we manage in-house.

So we’re actually observing and making sure that all the data files are up to date, the renewal notifications come through to us. So we can personally attend to the renewals. We know how disruptive even an hour or two without your website and email can be. So those elements are so critical and we love explaining them and helping people with them. And in terms of the question before about those levels of care, we don’t have to look after your domain name. We don’t have to look after your web hosting, but I think we have a duty of care to help you as a website owner, understand the importance of keeping all those things up to date. So we do offer levels of care, whether it be looking after your domain name, looking after your website hosting, but also in addition to the hosting, which is like the block of land.

We also look after that maintenance and care and, and keeping that website running smoothly is a bit more than just hosting the website is that next level of care, making sure it’s secure and stable and up-to-date, so that it’s going to be still fast and reliable for you year in, year out and again, a house, if you did zero maintenance on it for 10 years, things are going to stop working on it, the windows aren’t going to open, like they used to before, you need to do that maintenance. Otherwise that website that was brilliant five years ago or 10 years ago is just going to be a comfortable mess after a few years being without that proper care.

Jane:

So the hosting, that’s where that maintenance and that’s where the different levels of care are?

Simon:

That’s right. So we can provide just the bare essentials. And so many people will look for the cheapest deal for their web hosting. But oftentimes that budget deal doesn’t include any maintenance of the actual website itself. So it’s providing that lack of land. Yes, it’s going to be functional. Yes. It’s going to be visible online, but for us that next level of website care is so critical. We’re actually to look into the website itself and making sure it’s all kept up to date and making sure that the plugins are being updated and that the security certificates are being kept up to date. That’s generally not part of the web hosting. So that’s that next level of care that the over and above that we are offering more and more for clients, because it’s something that you can do yourself, but really, you know, when you’re in business, you’ve got other things to be worried about. So keeping the website secure and up to date is so critical for it to keep running smoothly.

Jane:

Yeah. And to me, it just makes sense then, like the way that you’ve described that, it makes sense to kind of have everything under the one roof. So if someone’s developed your website to actually have the hosting with them, to have the domain name registered with them, because then at least you know that everything’s being kind of taken care of together.

Simon:

Well, we sort of look at it as being your online concierge. We just help you with everything to do with the online space. You don’t have to go here, there and everywhere and remember where that is, because let’s face it, you get on with your business year or two down the track, you’ll forget where everything is. And you just want to pick up the phone and give us a call and know that we’re across all of those different key points.

Jane:

Yeah. Awesome. Is there anything else that small businesses need to know about creating an effective website?

Simon:

Well, I think we touched on it before, like making sure that when you build that website that looks beautiful on the computer, make sure it works well on a mobile. So that’s critical for the website to be effective. We really need to make sure it lines up with your business goals. Like if you’re running an e-commerce website, how effective is it in actually generating sales for you. Okay. Are you actually getting sales through it, or is there a problem where the shopping cart is not working? So actually checking in from time to time, using the website yourself from time to time as though you’re a customer coming to the website and testing it periodically is important. And checking in with the effectiveness. If you’re in physio therapy, for example, are we’re getting bookings? Are we getting online bookings is the phone ringing because of it.

So really checking in and doing that health check on the effectiveness of the website from time to time. Like we say, with contact forms, inquiry forms on a website, unfortunately with spam filters and different mail filtering systems, sometimes they land in the junk folder. So checking your junk folder from time to time, and we’ve got little tricks that we can help you set up on your inbox to make sure that those messages don’t land in the spam folder and there’s little filters and rules that we can help people set up as well. So again, that goes to that follow through. We need to make sure that if somebody is inquiring online, that that actually hits your inbox and that you can take that next step with that customer.

Jane:

Yeah. Fantastic. So much gold in this conversation, Simon, thank you for so generously sharing all of that insight. And if listeners feel compelled to get their website updated, having heard all of this, there’s these wonderful things that you can do with websites where can they find you? Where can they find Web Studio?

Simon

Yeah. So great place to start would be at our website, webstudio.com.au . And you can learn about us as a team and how we can help your business. So we’ve got our story and what we offer and you can meet our team or you can pick up the phone, we’d still do fine and we’re available on 02 55 145 145. And yeah, we can help you in any way that works for you, whether it be via zoom or Google meet or phone call or over email, we’d be happy to fit you in and have a chat about how we can help your business.

Jane:

Awesome. Fantastic. And we do love a bit of phone contact every now and again, don’t worry. I know I don’t these days, if I call someone, they’re like, oh, we’re going to call? We’re not zooming? And I’m like, look, let’s just have a phone call.

Simon:

Yeah. And so often you’ll be going to put together a little message or an update or something. No, just give him a call. It’s that personal touch. Sometimes that goes a long way. Just a little query or there are times when that personal phone call is such a big help, but to be honest, the big thing for me, like little thing that I’ve noticed over this pandemic period is how much we’re using zoom and how much we  are connecting with people over video call. Like we are now. And imagine if that was 10 years ago or 20 years ago when we were on dial up and using one fine line in the house. And we were trying to share the fine line, mention a house full of teenagers and one phone line and a dog. Just imagine what a chaos that we’d have during the pandemic.

Jane:

And you mentioned, I just don’t think we’d have chaos. So actually I think we just have this really like simplified life because I, they just wouldn’t be able to task us with all the things like if they were going to lock us up to do anything from home.

Simon:

Well, I think what it’s, I think it’s enabled us as, as businesses to pivot and really use the tools to have, like, I mean, I know there are industries that are severely affected that can only serve their customers face to face like hospitality travel and so on. But many other businesses have been able to adjust how they’re delivering their services and do it online. You know, get on and use use as a substitute for that face-to-face meeting. And as the online tools, as fatiguing as they can be across the day, can you use the well, you can be pretty effective with them. It’s, it’s, it’s been pretty good.

Jane:

Yeah. It’s like the pandemic it’s like the universe kind of just waited for dialogue to be a thing of the past is the pandemic. No, you can’t send it to earth just yet. They Hang on, wait for the NBN to go in. Oh, awesome. It’s been so great catching up with you, Simon. And I hope everybody’s enjoyed this episode. I’m sure they have. And you, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for being awesome and, and sharing so much wonderful.

Simon:

Thanks for having me on Jane.

 

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